THIS is the school voucher conversation we need in Harrisburg
From our friends at Education Voters of Pennsylvania
Since 2001, Pennsylvania has spent more than $2 billion on school vouchers for private and religious schools through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) voucher programs.
By any standards, $2 billion is a lot of money. One would imagine that Pennsylvania lawmakers would want to know if this money had been put to good use and helped to improve educational outcomes for Pennsylvania students.
Alas, the Pennsylvania legislature has shown NO interest in learning who has benefitted from $2 billion in tax money spent on vouchers or what impact it has had on student learning outcomes. Instead, state lawmakers have voted for a 17x increase in funding for EITC/OSTC vouchers over the past 20 years with NO corresponding increases in fiscal or academic accountability.
There has been a lot of chatter about implementing a new voucher program in Pennsylvania in 2023.
It would be wildly irresponsible for state lawmakers or Governor-elect Shapiro to entertain any conversations about expanding school vouchers without first conducting a thorough examination of Pennsylvania’s existing EITC/OSTC voucher programs.
Any policy discussions to increase funding for school vouchers must be based on data that will demonstrate that Pennsylvanians’ taxpayer dollars will help improve educational outcomes for Pennsylvania students.
What we know about Pennsylvania’s EITC/OSTC school voucher programs.
Families have benefited from taxpayers subsidizing their private school tuition payments.
Private and religious schools have benefitted from receiving tax dollars.
Scholarship organizations have benefited from being allowed to keep 20% of the EITC/OSTC funding they receive.
What we DON’T know about Pennsylvania’s EITC/OSTC school voucher programs.
Did voucher students experience a positive or negative impact on their academic achievement?
How many voucher students were attending a private school before they received a voucher?
How many low-income students have used vouchers?
How many families that received vouchers exceeded the income limit set by the program?
How many students were unable to use vouchers because private and religious schools discriminated against them and refused to admit them?
How did scholarship organizations spend the hundreds of millions of tax dollars they received through the EITC/OSTC programs that were not spent on vouchers for students?
We did a deep dive into the EITC/OSTC programs and found that Pennsylvania law explicitly prohibits the collection of the information that would be necessary to evaluate the programs. In fact, a January 2022 report from the Independent Fiscal Office concluded that “subsidized tuition clearly increases opportunities that may not otherwise be available to certain students, but it is not possible to comment on whether state funds have been used effectively due to lack of general and specific outcome data.”
Read our report to learn about the EITC/OSTC voucher programs HERE.